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Tax hike helps Landis launch new projects

LANDIS — Deep in the woods of the Lake Corriher Wilderness Area construction is nearing completion on a park office and general store. The project, which is 50 percent finished, is expected to be done by the end of September.
The office/store is just one of the town projects that can be finished in the coming fiscal year in part because of revenue generated from a tax increase.
The board of alderman approved a $10,892,933 budget including a 5-cent tax increase. The increase takes the tax rate from 43 cents to 47 cents per $100 of property value. The decision to approve a tax increase came down to a 2-2 split vote with the mayor acting as the tie breaker.
Aldermen Craig Sloop and Roger Safrit voted to approve the budget, while aldermen Dennis Brown and Tony Hilton voted against it. Mayor James Furr voted to approve the budget. The 2013-14 budget did not include any other fee increases.
The tax increase will generate $125,000 in added revenue, of which $45,000 will be used for the lake construction project and improvements to other park facilities. The remaining $80,000 generated will pay for the replacement of two police cars.
Recreation Director Andrew Morgan will have an office in the park office, it will also be where part-time staffers will sell fishing licenses as well as fishing, camping and boating equipment. A police satellite office and conference room will also be housed in the building.
The roof and walls have been erected on the building. The plumbing and electrical work and insulation have been completed. The project was contracted to Greg Ritchie Roofing and Construction, who on Tuesday continued to work in advance of the expected rain later this week.
Owner Greg Ritchie said he estimates the project will be complete by the end of September and hopes the rain does not create delays.
Morgan said it’s important to him to have a constant presence at the lake. Also, having someone at the park office will lessen the chance of crimes that could occur if someone isn’t there. There will be someone at the lake office at all times to prevent people from breaking the rules. Morgan said there are some people who will try to fish at the lake without a license and people on four-wheelers attempting to use the trails. All-terrain vehicles are not allowed on the trails.
Once the park office and general store are open and staffed, the town can offer more activities at the lake. The town is looking to include kayaking and some motor boat rentals next summer. Town Manager Reed Linn said he expects that with more activities being offered, the park will become busier.
The town has a plan in place to cycle out vehicles that have reached the end of their 10-year lifespan. If vehicles older than that have not experienced too many repairs, the town departments continue to drive the vehicles. The police did not replace any vehicles last year. The two old vehicles will be sold at an auction and the money from the sale will be returned to the general fund, Linn said.
The town will also continue work on the historic passive park, a project the town has been working on since 2009 following the sudden death of longtime residents D.C. and Frances Linn.
The couple owned the property at North Central Avenue, near the Landis Police Department, and dreamed of having a passive park downtown. The family wanted the property to get some use.
The town has pursued some grants and other funding sources, but most recently were gifted a home owned by the Linns to sell. Linn said the house is on the market now.
There are no other capital expenses budgeted for the fire, administration and streets departments.
The town continues its electrical conversion project at the cost of $128,000, which is included in the approved budget. The light fund did receive a 5.5 percent whole sale rate increase. The town will soon finish the electrical voltage conversion from a lower to a higher voltage on the northeast side of town along the U.S. 29 corridor.
The town received a whole sale rate increase from Kannapolis, but not Salisbury in the water fund. The town budgeted $230,000 for capital improvements to the dam at Lake Corriher, the reservoir and Lake Wright. The dams are eroding and the state mandates the town fix the erosion problem before they’re washed away. There was no rate increase within the sewer department, but a capital improvement project to replace wastewater pumps cost $115,000. The town did not budget any projects for the stormwater and did not include a rate increase in the budget.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.

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